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Heavens Above! (1963, Peter Sellers, Cecil Parker)Heavens Above! (1963, Peter Sellers, Cecil Parker)

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Heavens Above! (1963, Peter Sellers, Cecil Parker)

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Soon after poking fun at trade unions in I’m Alright Jack, the Boulting brothers turned their satirical eye on an even more controversial subject in Heavens Above!: the Church of England. They chose to show how Christian idealism can be exploited and occasionally conflicts with the reality of hard economics. The critics – not to mention the public – loved it.

Variety said it was: ‘a very funny film which will probably be enjoyed heartily by the clergy. Yet interwoven among the fun is some very shrewd and tart observation.’ The Sunday Express said: ‘The film is full of bright gags. It revels in making bishops look complacent and fumbling. But it never compromises Smallwood’s sincerity. Here is a good man trying to do good things. He cannot help it if his pearls have fallen before swine.’

The film stars Peter Sellers as Reverend John Smallwood, a naive and eager vicar who moves to a small town and proceeds to cause upset with the locals with his do-gooding. The main crux of the story is that he converts rich Lady Despard (Isabel Jeans) to Christianity and she proceeds to open up a free supermarket. Naturally, her generosity causes a stink with the local shopkeepers, and begins to cause all sorts of financial havoc on the stock market.

Sellers received praise for his performance from The Daily Telegraph, which said: ‘It comes as a surprise to see Peter Sellers in the role of a well-meaning country parson, but his acting has such a depth of feeling and his facial expressions are so sincere that he made me wonder why he doesn’t play this type of character more often.’ The film also attracted media attention when South Africa’s board of censors wanted to edit it. They were unhappy with the favourable depiction of Matthew (Brock Peters), a black binman who is made church warden. To their credit, the Boulting brothers objected to the proposed cuts, and the movie wasn’t shown in that country.

Heavens Above! (1963, Peter Sellers, Cecil Parker)

production details
UK / 118 minutes / 1963

Producers and Directors:Roy Boulting, John Boulting
Writers:Frank Harvey, John Boulting, from an idea by Malcolm Muggeridge

cast
Peter Sellers as The Rev. John Smallwood
Cecil Parker as Archdeacon Aspinall
Isabel Jeans as Lady Despard
Bernard Miles as Simpson
Brock Peters as Matthew Robinson
Miriam Karlin as Winnie Smith
Joan Miller as Mrs Smith-Gould
William Hartnell as Major Fowler
Roy Kinnear as Fred Smith
John Harvey as Wilson, Prison Officer (uncredited)
Eric Barker as Bank Manager
John Comer as Butcher
Mark Eden as Sir Geoffrey Despard
Basil Dignam as Prison Governor
Colin Gordon as Prime Minister
Geoffrey Hibbert as Council Official
Ludovic Kennedy as Himself
Malcolm Muggeridge as Cleric
Harry Locke as Shop Steward
Derek Nimmo as DG Assistant
Conrad Phillips as Deaf Man
Nicholas Phipps as DG
Thorley Walters as Tranquilax Executive
Gerald Sim as Store Manager
Anna Wing as Housewife
John Junkin as Rodney Bewes as Steve Marriott as Cardew Robinson as Tramp
Louis Mansi as Man Buying Groceries (uncredited)
Eric Sykes as Harry Smith
Kenneth Griffith as Rev. Owen Thomas
Ian Carmichael as The Other Smallwood
Irene Handl as Rene Smith
Joan Hickson as Housewife
Miles Malleson as Bishop Rockeby
Marianne Stone as Miss Palmer

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